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As Boy Scouts' vote on gay members nears, faith groups weigh in

Faith groups — including some from Oklahoma — are among the numerous organizations weighing in on the Boy Scouts of America's coming vote on a proposal that would allow gay youths to become members.
by Carla Hinton Published: May 18, 2013

The Rev. Matt Perkins said his former Iowa church had a long history with the Boy Scouts of America, like many churches across the country.

Perkins, senior pastor of Cathedral of Hope UCC in Oklahoma City, said Decorah United Church of Christ began sponsoring a Boy Scouts troop in 1911 — just a year after the storied faith-based organization was founded.

“That's how close the relationship was so part of the pressure on the Boy Scouts is the chartering organizations because so many are churches,” Perkins said.

Perkins referred to the Boy Scouts of America's scheduled vote on lifting its ban against gays.

The organization's members are set to decide on a proposal to allow gay youths to become Scouts during a meeting of its National Council the week of May 20 in Texas. A few months ago, the Boy Scouts' executive committee tabled a vote on lifting the organization's ban against gay Scouts and gay leaders. The proposal to be decided upon by the 1,400 voting members of the National Council on Thursday is considered to be a compromise of sorts.

In recent weeks, a wide range of organizations have spoken out about the proposal to open Boy Scout troop membership to gay youths. Representatives of several national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy groups have expressed ambivalence about the proposal, saying it is not inclusive enough because openly gay adults still would be prohibited from becoming leaders.

Numerous churches are charter sponsors of the estimated 100,000 Boy Scout troops across the country.

Specifically, about 70 percent of the troops are backed by faith-based groups, according to the Boy Scouts of America's statistics.

With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that several faith denominations and conservative groups have voiced their concerns or support over the proposal.

Different takes

Leaders with the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's largest Protestant denomination, have voiced opposition to the proposal.

The denomination's Executive Committee approved a resolution in February urging the Boy Scouts' National Council to reject the proposal up for consideration and maintain the gay prohibition.

“If adopted, the resolution will place the Boy Scouts organization at odds with a consistent biblical worldview on matters of human sexuality, making it an organization that would no longer complement, but rather contradict, belief in God and His moral precepts that serve as the basis for our Christian faith,” the resolution stated.

In Oklahoma, leaders with the state's Southern Baptist affiliate shared similar sentiments.

“Either promoting traditional morality is an essential element to Scouting or it is not. A transitional plan to entrench the celebration of homosexual activity in this storied boys organization is a bad idea any way you cut it,” said Brian Hobbs, communications director of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.

“In the end, this comes down to freedom of association. In a society such as ours that so prizes diversity, it is incumbent upon us to allow an organization to live up to its beliefs.”

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by Carla Hinton
Religion Editor
Carla Hinton, an Oklahoma City native, joined The Oklahoman in 1986 as a National Society of Newspaper Editors minority intern. She began reporting full-time for The Oklahoman two years later and has served as a beat writer covering a wide...
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